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NFL trying to get creative with prime time games in 2022

Prime time football might be taking a different shape in 2022.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The National Football League is always trying to push the envelope, and they are never scared to try new things. Say what you want about the league, but they know how to market, and profit, from the game/product they put out. As an example, when fans mocked and made fun of the league doing Thursday Night Football, they turned it into a billion dollar television contract.

The league is trying to change up their product again, and it starts with their plans for Monday Night Football. Having two games on Monday night is nothing new for the NFL, up until 2021 the NFL always had a double header in Week 1 on Monday night. In 2020 it was the Pittsburgh Steelers traveling to MetLife Stadium to play the New York Giants in the first game of the Monday night double header.

Well, the league is considering another type double header in 2022, they didn’t have a double header in 2021, but the games wouldn’t be on the same network, and they would also overlap. On one Monday night during the 2022 season, the league is considering scheduling one game on ESPN and one on ABC, according to Sports Business Journal.

This per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk:

The plan is for the two games to kick off about an hour apart, so they will be airing simultaneously for at least half of the game. That’s unusual; the NFL ordinarily doesn’t like to compete against itself in prime time.

But ESPN and ABC are both owned by Disney, and the network and the league have apparently decided it’s worth trying and seeing how fans like it. It is unknown when this Monday night doubleheader will take place, but it is expected to be within the first four weeks of the season.

The 2022 season is the final year of the current Monday Night Football contract. With the next contract, which begins in 2023, ABC will air three Monday Night Football games per year, and the rest will air exclusively on ESPN.

On top of that, Amazon, who now owns the rights to Thursday Night Football for the next 11 years, is trying to get some Black Friday Football. The NFL always runs three games on Thanksgiving day, but the night game is not a part of the Thursday Night Football package. Therefore, Amazon is trying their best to get a game on the day after Thanksgiving, but it won’t be easy.

Via John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, Amazon “has made a little bit of noise” regarding the possibility of a Black Friday game. Ourand reports that the NFL “has been lukewarm to this idea.”

This too from ProFootballTalk and Mike Florio:

Any attempt to televise a Friday game before the middle of December would raise questions regarding the league’s broadcast antitrust exemption. In exchange for the ability to sell the TV rights for all games in a bulk package and not on a team-by-team basis, the league can’t broadcast games on Fridays or Saturdays from the second Friday in September through the second Saturday in December. That said, because the Friday prohibition is aimed at protecting high school football, NFL games can be televised on Fridays, before 6:00 p.m. EST.

A separate issue possibly arises under the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which creates the antitrust exemption. Does the term “televising” include “streaming”? If it does, the exemption applies. If it doesn’t, the NFL could have a problem when selling the global rights to a streaming service, like it has done with Thursday nights on Amazon.

If the above reports don’t explain it enough, the NFL is looking to change the norm when it comes to how we watch the professional game of football. Like it or not, things are bound to eventually change. Unless you are someone who loves watching as much football as possible, most of these changes won’t impact the vast majority of teams/fan bases, but it is interesting to see the potential future of how the NFL is distributed to the masses.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year and the 2022 NFL Draft.